"While most smartphones are capable of taking great pictures if you're a sports enthusiast then you'll need to upgrade to an action camera. Action cameras have gotten much more popular in recent years as we become a culture that spends more time engaged in sports and extreme activities and love to document it."
Our Favorite Action Camera
The Price-Is-No-Problem Option
GoPro HERO 4 Black
Reason: True 4K recording - blue blood pedigree.
What Does an Action Camera Do?
An action Camera takes stills and video. Depending on the model they can be a range of different qualities. These cameras are small and portable so they can be taken into many different situations and they also come with a variety of mounts and cases to make them work in extreme situations and everyday carry.
Look Ma No Hands
Action cameras are intended to be used without needing your hands so you can capture the action without being endangered like a smartphone might cause. Most models have amazing features built in like wi-fi and Bluetooth so that you can even have someone else viewing the action remotely. An Action Camera can go anywhere you can, on land sea or even in the air. They are as versatile as your interests are and capable of capturing it all in brilliant color and sound.
Who Needs an Action Camera?
While some phones might be waterproof the risk of taking your phone into rugged situations certainly outweighs the need for pictures. Instead of ruining your phone out on the water a waterproof camera means water sports enthusiasts can take it with them and get pictures above and below the water line. Kayakers, divers, swimmers, and anyone who gets wet is perfect for an action camera.
...And on Land
Not only that but it works great on land too in rugged situations where mud and dirt would damage an ordinary camera. Dirt Biking, mountain biking, cycling, rock climbing, and even trekking in dusty conditions.
How to use an Action Camera
While it may have been a long time since you used a standard point-and-shoot these cameras are fairly similar. Set the menu depending on what you're looking to take pictures of (stills, video etc), slap it in the appropriate case and mount. Attach and go! The whole point of action cameras is that you can attach and forget about them so you can focus on the action, not on taking video.
Comparison of Action Cameras Specs
|Camera||Sensor size||Video up to||Waterproof to ft||Angle Degrees||MP stills size||Recording time|
|GoPro Hero 4 Black||10 Mp (1/2.3")||4K @ 30fps||131||170||12||90|
|SJCAM SJ4000 Plus||4 Mp (1/3")||2K @ 30fps||98||170||12||80|
|Polaroid Cube||5 Mp (??)||1080p @ 30fps||6||120||6||90|
|TomTom Bandit||16 Mp (1/2.3")||4K @ 15fps||164||124||16||180|
|Sony FDR-X1000V||12.8 (1/2.3")||4K @ 30fps||33||170||8.8||115|
Best Video Camera For Sports Recording
GoPro HERO 4 Black
This is the newest in the GoPro line, a name that is well known to action camera enthusiasts. This has been considered to be the best by several sources because of it's stunning 4K quality. The camera delivers 12MP stills. Its video works at both 30fps in 4K and 120fps in 1080p. The built-in wi-fi and Bluetooth are comparable with other cameras of this type. The housing can withstand depths of as much as 131 feet - only surpassed by TomTom's massive 164 feet. GoPro delivers better than average audio quality and even manages decent quality with the waterproof casing on. The GoPro line also has a massive selection of different camera mounts which make this a hugely flexible choice. The most impressive part of the HERO is that it's been tested to be practically indestructible and that it also has a night mode.
What?! No screen at the back? The Hero 4 Silver has one, but for this model GoPro inexplicably decided to leave it out. You can buy it as an clip-on from their website for about $80. Hamfisted members of the species might experience some problems handling a camera this small plus it can be hard to find in a bag because of its tiny size, though if you compare it to the Cube it's positively enormous. The price tag is a bit prohibitive but the used aftermarket for GoPro means you can get a significant discount if you're willing to buy preloved.
4k video and sound would seem to be the standard but this model also has an impressive ultra-wide Zeiss lens. This is the model for you if your sound is important, as its audio is the best of all models. The live view remote is a fun addition that means you can use the built in wifi to see yourself remotely from the camera. Sony also has a selection of mounts that rival GoPro for their action models. Probably the most impressive thing is the options you get with the Sony. Both 4k and 1080 HD in 30fps and 120fps. It also has NFC, wi-fi, and Bluetooth. Image stabilization technology( SteadyShot) is really helpful, and something no other models offer in this category.
At only 33ft the depth maximum of the Sony is severely lacking compared to other models, GoPro boasts almost 100 feet more. If you're using this on land it shouldn't be an issue though. It's also behind with only 8.8MP. The FDR-X1000V is also quite pricey, though it's the same as the GoPro though the HDR-AS100V model is half the price and has quite impressive stats of its own.
With anything that comes from a company like TomTom, you should expect all sorts of extras that may or may not be useful. This model can track G-force, altitude, speed, and GPS if you need them. The 16MP stills are significantly ahead of other models. The removable battery is a major plus because it means you can keep spares handy without needing to recharge and wait. The price tag is also significantly cheaper than the GoPro or the Sony.
The 4k video standard is great, but it only offers 15fps, so for any fast paced activity where a split second matters this might make a difference.
Extremely tiny, if you need something that you'll forget about this would be it, it's so small it looks like a toy. The wide angle lens is rather standard and although it has a few mounts there isn't that wide of a selection. It's capable, and at the price it's significantly cheaper than most of the other models.
Tiny, beyond tiny in fact. If you want something this small and easy to lose it's perfect but as adorable as the size is it's not very functional being so small. You'll also need to spend an additional $25 to get a waterproof case since the camera is only splash proof. The image quality is quite far behind the other models in this category, especially with only 6MP.
SJCAM SJ4000 Plus
This looks like a knock-off GoPro, it's that similar. The biggest bonus for the SJ is that it's VERY cheap. 12MP stills recorded on a 4MP sensor produces still shots whose quality do not really impress. Video quality however is actually very good, admittedly with a slight bluish tint that SJCAM is attempting to address with firmware updates. The unique thing about the SJ is that it can also work as a webcam if it is within the wifi range of your computer, and can serve as decent webcam if plugged into the USB socket of your car. It is rugged and stands up to tough conditions thanks to the housing (also strangely similar to the GoPro). SJ has a good selection of mounts and accessories that you can buy but conveniently it also fits into several of the GoPro versions as well.
The camera only offers 2K at 30FPS, 1080p at 60FPS so no 4k, putting it behind the Sony and the GoPro and TomTom. The navigation and menus are also lengthy and confusing for some users. While it might not be a con per se, this is essentially known as the “knock off” GoPro.
Which is best?
If you're looking for quality of image plus durability the GoPro really can't be beaten, but the prohibitive price means that if you're not already a GoPro enthusiast and are only looking to get started with action cameras you might not be looking to spend that much. The SJCAM is a great compromise with this, though you won't get quite the same quality of images you will still get the same flexibility, especially since you can swap for some of the GoPro accessories (but not the other way around). For the price the SJ can't be beaten, as the Polaroid is comparable in price it's going to cost you more in accessories and can't even come close to the same quality of image.
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